Pac-10 Weekend Wrap: This could hardly be going worse

Remember all those doomsdayers who said the Pac-10 was, at maximum, a two-bid conference?

And then, remember those who responded, "Well, it's not that hard -- the conference just needs two or three teams to separate themselves and then another team to win the automatic bid, and this could a four-bid conference without too much difficulty."

Let's just say, as things stand right now after what's gone down the first two weekends of Pac-10 play, those saying this was a two-bid conference are looking like they might have overshot. Here are your current standings:


Pacific-10 Conference Standings

(updated 1.11.2010 at 12:11 AM PST)

Conf Overall
W L W L
Oregon Ducks 2 1 10 5
California Golden Bears 2 1 10 5
Stanford Cardinal 2 1 8 7
Washington St. Cougars 2 2 12 4
Arizona St. Sun Devils 2 2 12 5
USC Trojans 2 2 10 6
Arizona Wildcats 2 2 8 8
UCLA Bruins 2 2 7 9
Oregon St. Beavers 1 2 7 8
Washington Huskies 1 3 10 5

Um, yeah. One-half of a game separates the top eight teams; the ninth place team is only one game out; and the 10th place team -- WASHINGTON -- is 1.5 games out. Every team has at least four losses overall, and no team (that's eligible for the postseason, anyway) possesses a nonconference resume worthy of an at-large selection. Not even one.

Think I'm overstating it? Our own Blogging the Bracket writer Chris Dobbertean has the Pac-10 as a one-bid conference today based on what its teams have done up until this point, as does the venerable Joe Lunardi. Washington, on the heels of a three-game losing streak, isn't even one of the first four out for either of them -- the Huskies are in the second four out. Ugh.

I think the issue isn't so much that everyone is so tightly bunched; it's that everyone is beating everyone while doing it. UCLA beats ASU and Cal, but loses handily to Arizona and Stanford, who lost to WSU and Cal, respectively. Oregon loses to Oregon State, which lost to UW and WSU, which both lost to Oregon. See where this is going? It's impossible to get a bead on how good any of these teams actually are.

Chances are, this will shake itself out by the end of the year, and a couple of teams will rise to the top. But this is looking more and more like a two-bid conference.

It's against that backdrop that I'm charged with ranking the conference teams. Yeah, right -- I might as well be throwing darts at a dartboard. This could be the kind of year where I have a new No. 1 each and every week; as it is, this will be the third consecutive week with a different No. 1.

On to the rankings!

1. Arizona State

Rank last week: 7
Record last week: 2-0
Overall Record: 12-5

The Sun Devils exemplify this conference about as well as anyone. Ranked fourth two weeks ago, they dropped to seventh after getting swept in Los Angeles, and now have jumped up to No. 1 after sweeping the Washington schools. Why? Because they're the only team in the conference with two dominant wins. If not for one of those fluky outcomes that sometimes happens with a zone (against UCLA), the Sun Devils would be 3-1 and sitting pretty.

Bright spot: Trent Lockett had a good weekend in his most extended playing time since early in the season. Great news for the Sun Devils, who expected big things from the freshman guard.

Question mark: Nice wins. Now go do it on the road this weekend at the Oregon schools.

2. California

Rank last week: 1
Record last week: 1-1
Overall Record: 10-5

It was a short stay on top for the Bears. Bumbling your way to a loss at home to UCLA will do that to you, but they did exact some measure of redemption by beating the Trojans. Time will tell how impressive that win is, given that the Trojans seem to be reeling from their sanctions, but we'll count it as a good win for now.

Bright spot: Putting up 1.12 points per possession against the Trojans is like scoring 100 points against most other teams in the league. That's encouraging for the Bears.

Question mark: First Harper Kamp, then Theo Robertson, now Jorge Gutierrez? It's hard to watch a season that began with so much promise get undermined by injuries. The good news is that if they can start getting things together they'll have a built-in excuse to point to when selection Sunday comes. The committee tends to take injuries into account.

3. Arizona

Rank last week: 6
Record last week: 1-1
Overall Record: 8-8

Outside of ASU, the Wildcats actually possess the two most convincing wins of anyone in the conference with double digit wins over UCLA and now UW. Along with WSU, Arizona is a team that's really, really going to scare some people as the conference season moves along.

Bright spot: This team is becoming more than just Nic Wise, with Derrick Williams leading the way. As I said, that's a darn scary thought for the rest of the Pac-10.

Question mark: Can this team find some consistency? What does this team do when Williams leaves the floor?

4. UCLA

Rank last week: 8
Record last week: 1-1
Overall Record: 7-9

The Bruins have close wins over the teams ranked 14 and 18 nationally by kenpom.com, and double digit losses to teams ranked 93 and 116. Of all the teams in the league, the Bruins are the most confounding. I can't decide if their wins are fluky, or an indication of actual potential. I felt like Cal gave the game away to them as much as they earned it with their shooting, but still they made the plays. Who knows?

Bright spot: Perhaps I have been underselling Michael Roll. The guy plays 85 percent of the minutes and has a 110 offensive rating thanks in large part to a 59.1 eFG%. He also has a 21.7 assist rate. Did I mention he made the game-winning shot against Cal? White guy stereotype be darned, the guy is making some plays.

Question mark: Are they as good as their two wins, as bad as their two losses, or somewhere in between? I'll bet Ben Howland doesn't even know.

5. Washington State

Rank last week: 3
Record last week: 1-1
Overall Record: 12-4

Nice win over Arizona in which the Cougs secured their second first buzzer beating game-winner (sorry, couldn't resist), and then a total stinker against ASU. Some would say that getting killed by the Devils on the road should cause me to drop them further, but it was an anomaly with all the guys who were benched at the beginning. Even with all the disruption, they were withing six or so midway through the second half before completely falling apart. They're not 25 points worse than the Sun Devils, and road splits -- however bad the loss was -- aren't bad.

Bright spot: As bad as the loss to ASU was, they actually defended the 3-pointer well in that game. That was a bugaboo early in the year, and hopefully this performance can maybe put to rest the idea that the Cougs don't defend the perimeter well. They seem to have gotten it straightened out.

Question mark: How will they respond to the beatdown in the desert? They've been resilient all year, but they didn't have to follow up the K-State whipping by playing Cal. How much has this team grown up?

6. USC

Rank last week: 2
Record last week: 0-2
Overall Record: 10-6

I suppose last week shouldn't have been wholly unexpected in the wake of the announcement that the Trojans would not be eligible for postseason play. Because of that, I'm not going to penalize them too much, especially since both losses came on the road. I believe they're still a very good team, and I believe they'll rebound.

Bright spot: Enough time has passed that the Trojans are now probably over the initial shock and can focus on the rest of the season.

Question mark: Either Mike Gerrity didn't take the news of the postseason ban well -- wouldn't be surprising, given that he's on his third school and in his final semester of college eligibility -- or Cal and Stanford figured something out against him. Either way, the Trojans need him to play like he did when he first got eligible.

7. Oregon

Rank last week: 4
Record last week: 0-1
Overall Record: 10-5

Nothing quite like coming out against your rival, who just lost by 51 to a Division I transition team, and think you're simply going to walk all over them by showing up. Like a lot of other teams in this conference, the Ducks still have a lot of growing up to do after getting completely outworked and outhustled by OSU.

Bright spot: Ernie Kent will be able to use the loss to OSU as a teachable moment. That's about the extent of the good to come out of that game.

Question mark: The Beavers zoned the Ducks and it didn't kill them. In fact, it helped a ton in limiting Michael Dunigan. Can they prove they can be effective against a zone this week when ASU comes to town? If not, the Ducks might see more of it as the season moves along.

 

8. Stanford

Rank last week: 9
Record last week: 2-0
Record: 8-7

Give Johnny Dawkins a lot of credit -- these guys have far from mailed it in. While home wins over USC and UCLA are encouraging, one must also keep in mind the circumstances of USC's weekend and UCLA's inconsistency, which has to be absolutely maddening to Dawkins.

Bright spot: Jeremy Green has started to take some of the scoring load off of the shoulders of Landry Fields. That's important if the Cardinal are going to have any kind of staying power.

Question mark: Now, can they hang on the road with a couple of teams that figure to be fighting mad from this past weekend?

9. Washington

Rank last week: 5
Record last week:
0-2
Overall Record:
10-5

Guess I was looking absolutely prescient by dropping the Huskies to No. 5 last week. My heart tells me No. 9 is too low -- they're certainly not as bad as they showed last weekend -- but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't make them a favorite against anyone else in the conference right now outside of OSU and maybe Stanford, especially on the road. Good news for UW! Stanford comes to Hec Ed on Thursday.

Bright spot: There aren't any, not when you were ranked and then went to the desert and lost both games by 17 points each. 

Question mark: Where to start? A Lorenzo Romar-coached team hasn't faced this kind of adversity in some time -- probably since the Spencer Hawes year in 2006-07.

In fact, check this out: That team was highly ranked in the preseason, played every nonconference game at home but one, won them all except the one game on the road (at Gonzaga -- remember when they used to play Gonzaga?), and then proceeded to lose three of their first four conference games, getting swept on their first road trip.

That team finished 19-13 and out of the postseason altogether. I don't think I need to tell you the question marks here.

10. Oregon State

Rank last week: 10
Record last week: 1-1
Overall Record: 7-7

Lost by 51 to Seattle U. Beat Oregon at Mac Court for the first time in two decades. Weird? Nope -- the Beavers are just this inconsistent. That team that everyone thought could be in the top half of the conference is still in there. Just how often it comes out to play is the question.

Bright spot: Good to know Daniel Deane tortures teams other than WSU. The guy had 15 points, eight rebounds and two assists in the win over the Ducks. If only everyone on OSU -- cough! Omari Johnson! cough! -- played with his energy and got as much out of their talent.

Question mark: Which team shows up against Arizona on Thursday? Will the Beavers actually be able to build on this?

Like what you read? Then check out us out on Twitter @CougCenter and @NussCoug. It's the same good stuff ... just with more brevity. Some of you will probably find that attractive ...

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